Researched by: Rachel John, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
North vs South India: A Youtube explainer
We recently launched exclusive video explainers on YouTube, hosted by our editor Lakshmi Chaudhry. Our latest looks at the so-called North-South divide in voting behaviour—and how it may play out for the BJP.
Check it out below. Stay tuned for more such explainers on the big fat election coming soon, and be sure to hit the notification button. PS: This is also a great way to share splainer with your friends and family—especially anyone who is kinda text-averse :)
War on Gaza: The latest update
A ceasefire deal? All the key players are assembled in Paris to push through a two-month ceasefire—in exchange for 100 Israeli hostages. The longer duration of this deal may lay the foundation for a permanent peace:
While the agreement would not be the permanent cease-fire that Hamas has demanded for the release of all hostages, officials close to the talks believe that if Israel halts the war for two months, it would likely not resume it in the same way that it has waged it until now. The truce would provide a window for further diplomacy that could lead to a broader resolution of the conflict.
A UN relief horror: Employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)—which provides relief for Palestinian refugees—may have been involved in the October 7 attack on Israel. Israel has presented strong evidence of the role of 12 employees—of whom nine have already been sacked. But the agency—which depends on donations—may lose funding as a result. The US and its key allies—Germany, Britain etc—have suspended contributions to UNRWA. The agency chief is calling it “collective punishment” for Gaza. New York Times has more on the funding. Al Jazeera has a good explainer.
The ICJ ruling: Earlier this month, South Africa filed a case in the UN’s International Court of Justice—accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza (See: this Big Story). Its lawyers had also asked for a preliminary ruling—directing an immediate ceasefire. The ICJ’s ruling—delivered Friday—fell short of doing that. But it acknowledged that some of Israel’s actions could amount to genocide:
The court ordered Israel to refrain from any acts that could fall under the Genocide Convention and to ensure its troops commit no genocidal acts in Gaza. The ruling required Israel to prevent and punish any public incitements to commit genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and to preserve evidence related to any allegations of genocide there. Israel must also take measures to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinian civilians in the enclave, it said.
Reuters has more on the ruling.
The next Babri Masjid: Gyanvapi mosque
The context: The Gyanvapi mosque—located inside the Kashi Vishwanath temple complex—has been a legal lightning rod. Last year, Hindu petitioners claim that a ‘shivling’ has been uncovered on its premises—thanks to a lower court-ordered survey. The masjid committee tried to block the survey—by moving the Supreme Court—but to no avail. We did a two part series on the Gyanvapi Mosque last year. Part One looked at the history of the mosque—and Part Two explained the Places of Worship Act.
What happened now: The Archaeological Survey of India filed a report claiming to have uncovered 55 sculptures of Hindu deities inside the mosque complex. These include all the major deities—including Hanuman, Krishna, Shiva etc. All of them are broken in pieces. The report also claims to have uncovered a “pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple” was destroyed in the 17th century—during Mughal emperor Aurganzeb’s reign—to construct the mosque.
Why this matters: Members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and others are demanding the mosque be turned over to Hindus in order to maintain “communal harmony.” But, but, but: The Places of Worship Act prohibits the conversion of any place of worship—which must maintain the “religious character” that existed on the 15th day of August, 1947. Another Babri Masjid-like ruling would dismantle that law—and open up all mosques to such lawsuits. (Indian Express)
Trump’s big defamation payout
The context: Columnist E Jean Carroll accused the former US president of raping her in the changing room of Bergdorf Goodman store in 1996. When she went public in 2019, Trump denied it—calling her a “nut job” who invented “a fraudulent and false story” to sell a memoir. She then sued him for defamation—seeking unspecified damages and a retraction of his statements.
What happened now: A New York jury held Trump guilty of defamation and asked him to pay $83.3 million in damages.
The compensatory damages are meant to account for the harm that the jury found his comments had done to her reputation and emotional wellbeing. The panel also had to come up with a punitive penalty intended to stop Mr Trump from continuing to speak out against her.
A shocking report on rape & pregnancy in the US
The context: In June 2022, the US Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion—and overturned a 49-year-old precedent set in the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling (explained here). What this means: each individual state is now free to make its own abortion laws. As a result, 14 out of 50 states have banned abortion. But most of them have an exception for rape.
What happened now: According to a new study, only ten women who became pregnant due to rape had legal abortions in these 14 states—each month. That’s shocking since there were 65,000 such cases of pregnancies. Texas accounted for as much as 45% of that number. What this means: Most women who become pregnant due to rape do not have access to abortion—even when it is permitted under the law. (The Guardian)
Rohan Bopanna makes history down under
The 43-year-old became the oldest male player to win a Grand Slam title on Saturday—when he clinched the men’s doubles title at the Australian Open. Bopanna and Aussie partner Matthew Ebden defeated the Italian duo—Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori—in straight sets. It’s been a stellar week for Bopanna who also became the oldest player to reach #1 in the doubles ranking. Afterwards, Bopanna said:
“A couple of years ago, I remember sending (my wife) a video message saying I am going to call it a day. I went five months without winning a match. But that perseverance inside me kept me going. I’m glad I could do that, and change so many things and find a wonderful partner.”
Also making history: Italy’s Jannik Sinner—who became the youngest male player to win the Australian Open at the age of 22. He defeated Daniil Medvedev in a five-set match to win his first Grand Slam title. The Guardian offers a play-by-play commentary.
Moving on to cricket: India registered a shocking loss against England in the first Test match of the ongoing five-match series in Hyderabad. The Indian team dominated the first two days of the play and notched a 190-run lead on the board. But the English orchestrated a remarkable turnaround in the second innings, aided by Ollie Pope’s 196-run knock and debutante Tom Hartley’s incredible spell of seven wickets for 68 runs. Ultimately, Indian batsmen fell short and lost by 28 runs. FYI: This is the first time India has lost after gaining a 100-plus lead in the first innings. Indian Express has a good read on how England managed to crack India’s spin code.
iPhone apps are secretly collecting your data
Apple does not allow apps to run in the background. And most of us assume swiping up on an iPhone app stops it from collecting information. However, new research shows that push notifications are being used as a secret backdoor for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and X—to collect user data even when they are closed. Here’s how it works:
Apple provides special software to help your apps send notifications. For some notifications, the app might need to play a sound or download text, images, or other information. If the app is closed, the iPhone operating system lets the app wake up temporarily to contact company servers, send you the notification, and perform any other necessary business. The data harvesting… happened during this brief window.
The information collected includes “IP addresses, the number of milliseconds since your phone was restarted, the amount of free memory space on your phone, and a host of other details. Combining data like these is enough to identify a person with a high level of accuracy.” Meta and LinkedIn insist they only collect data to “make sure the notifications are working.” Gizmodo has lots more on the research and the video below shows how this particular scam works:
The world’s largest cruise ship is here!
Icon of the Seas is 365 metres long, has 20 decks and can carry up to 7,600 passengers. It also boasts more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges. The price tag for this behemoth: $2 billion. Tickets range from $1,723 to $2,639 per person. Environmental activists are unhappy that the ship is powered by liquefied natural gas—which could leak methane into the air. But Royal Caribbean insists Icon of the Seas is 24% more energy efficient than the industry requirement. Lionel Messi was on hand for the seriously cheesy launch ceremony in Florida. Yes, this is how he spends his time at Inter Miami. (BBC News)
Three things to see
One: As you know, vandalising artwork is the hottest trend in environmental protests. The latest target was the ‘Mona Lisa’ at The Louvre. Protesters from an organisation called Riposte Alimentaire (‘Food counterattack’) threw soup on the iconic painting—which mercifully was behind a glass case. They were fighting for “our fundamental right to food.” Tbh, we’re not sure how spilling perfectly good soup achieves that worthy goal. (BBC News)
Two: Here’s the trailer for Dev Patel’s directorial debut ‘Monkey Man’—which also has him playing the leading role. Set in the Mumbai underground, the lead character is inspired by Hanuman on a bloody revenge rampage a la John Wick. Also making her Hollywood debut: ‘Made in Heaven’ star Sobhita Dhulipala. The film releases in theatres on April 5. Variety has more plot details.
Three: Say hello to the potty-mouthed grey parrots who are causing havoc at an English zoo in Lincolnshire. The harried zoo officials are trying to reform these foul fowls by putting them with better-behaved peers:
We’ve put eight really, really offensive, swearing parrots with 92 non-swearing ones,” [Chief executive Steve Nichols] said. If the new strategy works, the eight parrots could learn “all the nice noises like microwaves and vehicles reversing” that the other parrots in the flock favour, Nichols added.
Of course, this experiment could also magnificently backfire: “We could end up with 100 swearing parrots on our hands. Only time will tell.” You can see how irresistible they are in the vid below. (CNN)